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Taking the wheel on safety on the roads
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For all the errant things it does and the things it does not do, the General Assembly deserves credit for passing legislation that is long overdue.

Awaiting Gov. Sonny Perdue’s signature are many bills, including Senate Bill 458 and Senate Bill 360. SB 458, authored by Sen. Don Thomas (R-Dalton), takes away the exception pickup truck drivers have had for years of not wearing their seat belts. It leaves in place the stipulation that drivers 18 years or older of pickup trucks don’t have to have their seat belts buckled so long as they are involved in their normal agricultural operations.

It passed 45-2 in the Senate and passed almost as easily in the House, garnering 132 yea votes to 29 nays, showing it has broad support from Democrats and Republicans and from rural and more populated areas.

According to statistics from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, half of the 1,038 fatal victims of motor vehicle accidents in 2006 were not restrained. Half of the fatal crashes on Georgia’s rural roads involve light trucks, and 75 percent of those victims were not restrained.

In 2006, there were 2,052 crashes in Effingham County, resulting in eight deaths. Four of those victims were not wearing restraints.

Beginning July 1, pickup truck drivers not working their farms will be required to buckle up, and the GOHS is about to commence another wave of its Rural Roads campaign of Click It or Ticket. Georgia reached a high-water mark in safety belt use in 2006, with 90 percent of passenger vehicle occupants employing a restraint. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t get to 100 percent, even before July 1.
SB 360 bans drivers 18 and younger from using any wireless communications device while driving and prohibits texting while driving for all drivers of any age. It too passed both chambers of the General Assembly with nearly unanimous support.

In crafting the bill, its authors wrote “there has been a proliferation of cellular telephone use and that virtually every driver in Georgia now possesses such a device; and distractions caused by such devices, particularly the act of sending or reading text based messages has resulted in numerous traffic accidents, injuries, and deaths throughout our state and nation. Young drivers are particularly susceptible to such distractions due to their inexperience and increased willingness to take risks while driving.” They added it is the responsibility of the General Assembly “to take action to protect drivers from those who abuse their driving privilege by recklessly text messaging while driving.”

We hope and trust these two measures will fulfill their intentions — save Georgians’ lives on the roads.